Your career, traded for career as mental health guinea pig

Do you recall the stories we read as kids about two children who traded places? The most famous of these were the Jacob and Esau story, the story of two brothers who traded places as their father’s favorite son. Another is a novel by Charles Dickens, where we see two boys, one rich, one poor, who look enough alike that they are able to trade places and then, live each other’s lives. This is called The Prince and the Pauper. These two tales are the same, making similar commentary, that what has changed is nothing but the label!

Did you change your career, trade it for another along the way in similar fashion? Perhaps the Jacob and Esau story, and subsequent fairy tales are a warning to us, telling us that labels are only labels, they won’t change who we are inside, but they WILL change how others perceive us, and even change our self-perceptions.

What was the career you traded in for the career as mental patient? These new Mental Patient careers weren’t so great, were they? Low pay you couldn’t live on, no credibility, living in constant fear of  re-incarceration, and the inner knowledge that we would face early death. What was your career before that?

Some were not even adults yet. They did not have a chance at life, nor had yet explored their likes and dislikes. They had not left Mom and Dad. Others had not even met their parents, were shuffled from one “home” to another. Some spent time in juvenile detention, and whatever talents they had were squelched immediately.

Many, though, did come from decent backgrounds. They did not come from abusive nor troubled homes.

Some were shining stars in their previous fields and came to the world of Mental Health out of curiosity, or because it was an “alternative.”

All of us were coerced into selling our souls to this Devil for a lifetime of marginalization, silencing, and incarceration.

I remember sometime around 2010 one of my co-inmates kept asking during group when the group leaders were going to hand out “paychecks” to the patients. She had us slaves laughing real hard, since we knew all we were going to be handed were trays with plastic silverware. Because she kept saying it, and had us in stitches, the staff finally called her psychotic, and drugged her.

Music was my first career. I was good at it right away. There was no question in anyone’s mind. What was in question was precisely what I would do in music. My dad was concerned about money, but my mom wanted me to explore a bit before making a decision.

I told them quite firmly I wanted to pursue composing, but from what I recall, Dad was not too happy about that. Mom wanted Dad to consider my point of view, if I recall correctly. Dad was even considering trying to convince me a career in the sciences might be a better idea. Mom was against that, because she believed in the arts. After all, she had seen too many women forced to marry, forced to silence their pens because people just don’t like to hear creative uppity women.

I could have married and been silenced that way, but I didn’t want marriage! Oh no! Instead, I traded away all possibility of marriage.  Sealed that one. I was coerced into selling my promising career for a career as Mental Patient. I am saddened that this happened, but it happens to many.

Almost two decades later I earned my degrees in writing but the institutions that held me captive tried to knock me down any way they could, discrediting me or just saying my MFA, which I worked very hard to earn, didn’t matter. THEY mattered more, because they have power, they claimed, they earned more money.

Sadly, after I graduated, I was socially othered at my graduate school due to one person’s paranoid and jealous feelings toward me. His paranoia was a social issue he had with me. He envied me, perhaps didn’t like my identifying, at the time, as “mental patient,” and then, suddenly “not patient.” His subsequent actions following my graduation were not even legal, but because he had power at #GoddardCollege and prestige, the incident went overlooked by other personnel who could have done something. I have tried to take out a discrimination case, spoken at length (over and hour on the phone) with one of the deans, who promised to take action immediately, but didn’t. I don’t expect anything to come of this because I believe her hands are tied.

I believe my advisor’s hands are tied, too. After all, her job is at stake should she side with me. I considered that one carefully. Although I see it as cowardly of her to turn against me (must have been last summer) and say horrible things to me which I can’t even repeat here. I used to think of her as an ally and it’s sad that I can’t anymore.

It amounted to broken promises. The college promises, on the record, and off, a certain amount of “support.” They didn’t. When they hand you a degree they promise also that they back you, in a way. Most colleges back down on this in some form. They’ll back the rich alums who continue to donate, but they totally bomb out and forget the poor alums even exist.

This might amount to the following. At least you could count on your former advisor for a job reference, especially if you did stellar work for that advisor. No matter how rich or poor you happen to be shouldn’t matter here.

However, I got the shaft, not only that, I got booted by my buddies, too. And one person caused this. (I didn’t want to admit that I knew this.)

All that very quickly ended my “writing career.”

What was I left with? The shrink institutions weren’t happy to begin with that I was a writer. They hate writers, since writers expose them. Goddard had chopped off all avenues for me.  What is a writer to do whose avenues are closed?  I suppose most folks out there expected me, at that point, to return to Career #2, Mental Patient, but of course I didn’t.

On to Career #4, which I am enjoying very much. Spoken Word Performance makes me very happy!

In two weeks I will have completed Competent Communicator in Toastmasters. I am a leader in my organization, and have helped other people reach their goals as well. After a year I think I have proven plenty of credibility with my club and district as well. I have won numerous awards and much recognition. I have made friends there, people I never thought I would ever meet. I am so thrilled our paths have crossed in this amazing way.

With the help and encouragement of this group, that I meet with often, I have been able to develop a Spoken Word Performance act called Behind Locked Doors. I am bringing this act FAR AND WIDE to audiences who will hear what it is like to live as a mental patient. This is Career #4 for me, bringing together all my skills.

This is a give-and-take for me. I enjoy teaching the skills I learned as a music student many years ago.  I also learned stand-up comedy so I know how to get audiences to laugh. I love doing this so much, it is much more fun that trying to sell books! I can’t believe I am 59 years old and enjoying a new career.

So I look back on the trade, look back on the bad deal I made so many years ago, trading my amazing music career for career as mental patient. Yeah, that was a bum deal all right. Now, having quit being a mental patient, it seems after many decades, I’m getting the paycheck I’ve been waiting for. I’m getting it tenfold. Damn, what a jackpot awaits. It’s a-coming, just ask…….

4 thoughts on “Your career, traded for career as mental health guinea pig”

    1. Thanks, I was sure when I first mentioned it very few took me seriously. I know, I heard those patronizing groans. The usual….The little pats on the back that told me folks didn’t count on my getting anywhere in life. ha ha ha ha. It’s all about power. And who has it. Yeah it gets tiring.

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